Members of the writing and publishing community are mourning the loss of Bookmark owner Rodney Jones, who died Monday in Charlottetown at the age of 66 due to heart failure.
Jones owned two stores, the original Bookmark, located in the Confederation Court Mall, and Bookmark II on Spring Garden Road in Halifax.
Terrilee Bulger, publisher of Charlottetown’s Acorn Press, is among the growing list of bibliophiles who were shocked to learn of Jones’ sudden death.
“We’re all reeling with the news,” says Bulger.
“Rodney has been such a positive force in the book industry. He surrounded himself with terrific staff and his two stores are beloved in their communities. It is rare to find booksellers who take such an interest in authors and publishers. The book world will miss him immensely.”
Former Acorn publisher Laurie Brinklow echoed Bulger’s sentiments. She said Jones was an institution in Charlottetown.
“His death leaves a huge gap in the Island’s bookselling community. The Bookmark is one of those last bastions of the book industry, one that takes an interest in its clientele, supports small presses and promotes local writers.”
Brinklow said Jones’ support of local publishing was incredibly important to her as a small press selling Island books in one of the smallest markets in the country.
Hugh MacDonald, author and former poet laureate of P.E.I., also praised Jones.
“It takes really special people to operate and run an independent bookstore in the face of all the competition from national chains and digital marketers,” MacDonald said. “Thanks to wonderful people of courage like Rodney Jones and his terrific staff, there are still bookstores that believe that the work of local writers is worth supporting and nurturing.”
Richard Lemm, author and professor of English and creative writing at UPEI, had this to say:
“Rodney Jones, as a bookseller, was one of the heroes of contemporary P.E.I. culture, and I mean culture in the largest sense, not just the arts. He was a quiet, unassuming hero, avoiding the limelight. But Rodney, like many quiet heroes, has left a vital legacy for the Island.”
The oldest independent bookstore in the Atlantic region, The Bookmark opened in 1972 on Victoria Row, then moved to the Confederation Court Mall in the early 1980s.
Jones opened the Bookmark II in Halifax in 1989, where it has remained as part of a handful of independent bookstores in the region.
Lori Cheverie, manager of the Charlottetown branch, says that staff at both stores are still in shock, but will be working with his daughters while they absorb their loss.
“We will carry on as we are to let Rodney’s family come to terms and make a decision on what they’d like to do with the store,” Cheverie said.
Jones’ legacy extends beyond the world of authors, booksellers and booklovers.
He was instrumental in the development of Victoria Row, one of Charlottetown’s most popular areas for dining, shopping and simply relaxing and a tourist attraction unto itself during the warmer months of the year.
In addition to establishing The Bookmark there, Jones also established a second business on the street, Café Diem, which he ran for many years and still operates there today, under different ownership.
Friends say Jones truly loved Prince Edward Island and was a great contributor to Charlottetown life.
Jones was born in Charlottetown Oct. 4, 1946, the son of Heber and Pauline Jones. He is survived by daughters, Tarra Lynn Drevet and Charla Marie Jones, and by grandchildren, Jeremy and Elsa.
He is also survived by two brothers, Terry and Larry, by a sister, Brenda, and by nieces, Tiffany, Ellen and Katia.
Remains are resting at the MacLean Funeral Home Swan Chapel in Charlottetown.
Completed arrangements will be announced later.